The Department of Education's Civil Rights Office is investigating the University of Vermont following several Jewish students' complaints of antisemitism on campus that the college failed to resolve.
Antisemitism has increased as schools are encouraging a focus on identity politics. Recent cases of public school teachers encouraging students to physically attack individuals who are not members of “black and brown communities” is contributing to this situation, as have recent attacks on Hasidic Jewish private schools. Now the University of Vermont is being investigated for allowing teaching assistants to lead antisemitic harassment crusades.
A complaint on behalf of students attending the University of Vermont in 2021 was filed by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. The allegations accuse a teaching assistant of creating a hostile campus environment that led students to engage in cyberbullying and antisemitic harassment. The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is now involved being that students subjected to the alleged antisemitism claim that the college was aware and did not properly act on their behalf to resolve the situation.
The details of this antisemitism case name a teaching assistant who targeted Jewish students. This educator supposedly threatened to give students lower grades if they believed in Zionism or supported Israel. In addition, non-Jewish students were encouraged by the assistant teacher to ostracize anyone who supported these beliefs.
To make matters worse, Jewish students claim they were excluded from gaining access to school groups like, “Share Your Story UVM.” This online forum was designed to allow survivors of sexual abuse to gain support from others who have had similar experiences. They were also unable to access a socialist book club which actively posted that “Jewish Zionists” were banned from participation, openly displaying antisemitism without fear of being punished by school officials.
Students noted in their claim that they made the university aware of these issues, but that nothing was done to offer support. One student felt so attacked by this blatant antisemitism that she hid her Jewish necklace out of fear of religious persecution. This adversely affected her mental health and caused various panic attacks.
This comes at a time when even UCLA teachers have decried the rise in antisemitic sentiment on college campuses. One tenured professor spoke out after quitting the profession to decry the “WOKE Takeover” of college campuses. What’s more, he noted that the rise in identity politics at universities has led to anti-zionist propaganda, instigating multiple attacks on Jewish students.
The University of Vermont released a statement acknowledging awareness of the complaints and the pending investigation. School officials also impressed that they work to foster a “culture of inclusiveness.” Although they did not mention their thoughts on antisemitism or anti-zionism specifically, they did note that discrimination is not tolerated on the college campus.
This blanket statement does nothing to support Jewish students who claim to have been targeted for their religious beliefs. Whether those involved in this antisemitism case have sought outside mental health care concerning the situation is uncertain. What is clear is that these are serious allegations that are likely to draw much interest to the subject of religious rights and colleges’ responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all of their students.